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TfL needs to prepare for new transport technologies, says report

Transport for London (TfL) needs to predict and prepare for changes in technology, according to a new report published today.

‘Future Transport: How is London responding to technological innovation?’, published by the London Assembly Transport Committee, claims there have been recent failures in London’s preparations for new, innovative transport services, notably the rapid growth of private hire operator Uber and the disruptive launch of dockless cycle hire service oBike.

It has made a number of recommendations to the Mayor of London, TfL and the Government, including: an integrated control system for ground-based autonomous vehicles and airborne drones; and data produced by apps powered by underlying TfL data is shared with TfL.

Keith Prince, chairman of the London Assembly Transport Committee, said: “Autonomous vehicles could make roads safer. Dockless bikes could spread the benefits of cycling to the whole city and demand-responsive buses could give people a public transport service tailored to their needs.

“The opportunity to improve mobility for millions of Londoners is here but it will require proper planning, transparency and accountability, as well as cooperation with Government, boroughs and development companies.

“TfL has been caught napping on the technology front and it’s time to wake up. Uber, then oBike are two examples of a poorly prepared regulator which seems to be making it up as they go along.”

In 2014 in its ‘Future Proof’ report, this committee warned that TfL needed to be prepared for the consequences of a transport environment in which technology is evolving faster than the legislation that is needed to govern its use.

“It’s clear that warning was ignored – let’s hope this warning won’t be,” concluded Prince.

Michael Hurwitz, director of transport innovation at TfL, said the report outlines the challenges that all cities across the UK, including London, are facing when considering how transport will operate in the future.

"We work with a wide range of tech companies around the world to support and learn from innovation that could improve transport across London," he said.

“As part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, many of these elements are already being considered and TfL is involved in a number of pilots and initiatives to help ensure that any introduction of new technology such as autonomous vehicles and drones is safe, environmentally-friendly and consistent with our focus on walking, cycling and green public transport.”

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